A $64,404 NC QUEST grant has been awarded to the Wilkes County schools for a two-year program designed to help middle school science teachers improve student reading comprehension and other literacy skills.
NC QUEST grants are provided under the national No Child Left Behind Act for partnerships between universities and school system identified as “high need” for efforts to increase teacher quality. “QUEST” stands for Quality Educators through Staff Development and Training.
The grant for the Wilkes schools funded additional training for 10 science teachers in different grades at all four Wilkes middle schools. Faculty from Appalachian’s Reich College of Education are providing the training through workshops and other means. This began in July.
Dr. Wanda Hutchinson, associate superintendent of the Wilkes schools, said the program’s goals include helping teachers and students prepare for changes associated with the Common Core Standard of English/Language Arts, part of a new statewide school curriculum.
With the new curriculum, students will be tested and assessed more on their ability to understand content area through regular practice with a complex text and its vocabulary. Students will be asked to provide evidence of answers provided in a specific text.
Mrs. Hutchinson said the program’s goals include improving middle level science teachers’ knowledge and abilities related to teaching and assessing reading and writing in the classroom.
In the second year of the initiative, she said, teachers from other school systems will observe how the participating Wilkes middle school science teachers utilize what they have learned. Additional training will be provided.
Mrs. Hutchinson was instrumental in Wilkes being awarded the grant. She will continue as the project coordinator and work directly with ASU during the two years.
The nature of reading changes as a student progresses through grade levels, but the nature of a text students’ are asked to read, comprehend and interpret changes drastically as a child moves from elementary to middle school.
There is a notable progression from “learning to read” to “reading to learn” content material, stated a press release.
The initiative emphasizes building knowledge through rich science content, which is both nonfiction and informational in nature. This includes increasing teacher understanding of how to facilitate students’ scientific literacy with multiple texts, information and computer technology.
“This grant and the related training and materials that are provided will make a difference in literacy for our middle school aged students,” said Mrs. Hutchinson.
“While visiting the middle schools this year, I have already seen science teachers teaching the new North Carolina Essential Standards and using the instructional methods they learned during training this summer. It is exciting to see students engaged and learning scientific concepts in such an interactive environment,” she said.